Lemon Grove, CA—The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released information that the teen birthrate in California has declined yet again in 2009. Mark Horton, director of the CDPH, announced that there were 47,811 births to teens ages 15-19 in 2009, a reduction from 51,704 births the previous year. This represents the lowest rate the state has seen since California began tracking teen birth rates.
“I am thrilled about this decline,” said Brian F. Hayes, TeenNow California’s Board President and the Youth 2 Youth Center Director for Operation Samahan, a community health center that serves low-income families in San Diego County. “It means that the hard work we are all doing is actually paying off, and that comprehensive sex education does lower unplanned pregnancies for teens. My concern now is ensuring that efforts continue. In California, we had some fantastic results from our Teen Pregnancy Prevention efforts, but with the elimination of two of the most successful contributors to this new data, TeenSmart Outreach and the Male Involvement Program, I fear this decline is short lived.”
Teen pregnancy prevention programs, like other health and education programs, have been hard-hit by California’s budget crisis. TeenSmart Outreach and the Male Involvement Program were eliminated in 2008, and the Information and Education Program was drastically cut. All these programs, along with the Community Challenge Grant program, have been funded through the Department of Public Health’s Office of Family Planning. Each funding stream has its own targets and strategies, and have formed a holistic, integrated approach to teen pregnancy and STI prevention throughout the state.
“There are many reasons we’re seeing these promising declines,” said Dana Goodrow, executive director of TeenNow California, a state-wide organization that provides training, technical assistance, advocacy, and professional development to those working with adolescents. “California has long understood that preventing teen pregnancy requires innovative, community-based strategies. The state has offered a great deal of quality programming for young people, including leadership development, mentoring, theater and arts programs, traditional, medically accurate sex education, and access to contraception and clinical services. All of these elements are important pieces of a comprehensive strategy to improve outcomes for teens.”
Goodrow goes on the say that a priority for leaders in the teen pregnancy prevention arena, including TeenNow California, is to preserve California’s successful models so that rates continue to decline. “The cost to society of teen births is high,” she said. “We can’t let budget issues derail the progress we’ve made here. In the long term, preventing teen pregnancies is good for California’s bottom line.”
The largest reduction in teen births was seen in the Latino community, despite the fact that that group continues to have the highest teen birth rate in the state. The Latino teen birth rate dropped from 61.9 in 2007 to 50.8 in 2009, a decrease of 11.1 teen births per 1,000 females.
- African-American teens had the second highest birth rate at 40.5 in 2007, the rate for African-American teens dropped to 37.0 in 2009, a decline of 3.5.
- The teen birth rate for Asian/Pacific Islander teens fell from 10.9 in 2007 to 8.5 in 2009.
- The rate for White teens declined from 13.6 in 2007 to 11.9 in 2009.
Although the source of this continuing decline in California may be debated, within California community clinics and teen pregnancy prevention programs, the focus is more on continuing teen pregnancy prevention efforts and funding.
*TeenNow California is a state-wide organization that provides training, technical assistance, advocacy, and professional development opportunities those working with adolescents. TeenNow California is dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of expectant and parenting teenagers and their young children, and to the prevention of adolescent childbearing.